Five brothers playing first-class cricket, four of whom appearing in Test matches as well.
Cricket historians and statisticians have never been tired of recounting how Hanif Mohammad, who passed into the ages on August 11, and his three brothers dominated Pakistan cricket in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
Apart from Hanif, the eldest, Wazir Mohammad, and younger ones, Mushtaq Mohammad and Sadiq Mohammad, represented Pakistan in the top division of cricket.
Only Raees Mohammad, the fifth brother — two years older than Hanif — did not feature in a single Test, though he came agonisingly close to playing one, against India at Dhaka in 1954-1955.
It was the opening Test of the series and Raees was a member of the Pakistan squad.
Pakistan’s captain Abdul Hafeez Kardar went to Raees’ room on the eve of the Test and ‘asked him to take to bed early,’ revealed Ameer Bee, the proud mother of the brothers who was a good sportswoman herself.
‘You are going to play in the Test tomorrow morning,’ Kardar said.
But it was not to be and Raees was made the 12th man.
As a right-hand batsman and occasional leg-spinner, he played 30 first-class matches and scored 1,344 runs at an average of 32.78 and took 33 wickets at 31.27 apiece.
His brothers left their imprint on world cricket.
Their importance to their country could be understood from the fact that at least one of them represented Pakistan in its first 100 Tests for a shade over a quarter of a century.
Why, at least two brothers played together on as many as 64 occasions.
Wazir and Hanif played together in 18 Tests, while Hanif and Mushtaq in 19.
Similarly, Wazir and Mushtaq featured together in one Test, and Mushtaq and Sadiq in 26.
Against New Zealand at Karachi in October 1969, Hanif, Mushtaq and Sadiq emulated the feat of the Grace as well as the Hearne brothers of England by playing together in one Test.
The Grace brothers — William, Edward and Frederick — played together in the first-ever Test in England, against Australia at The Oval, in 1880.
The Hearne brothers, George and Alec, and their cousin John Thomas, better known as Old Jack, appeared for England against South Africa at Cape Town in 1891-1892.
Old Jack’s brother Frank Hearne represented South Africa in the same Test.
It was Sadiq’s first and Hanif’s last Test. They opened for Pakistan in both innings. Hanif, Mushtaq and Sadiq all bowled in New Zealand’s second innings.
All five brothers were born in the erstwhile state of Junagadh on the Saurashtra peninsula in Gujarat in British India.
They were actually seven siblings — six brothers and one sister — but their sister and one brother died in their teens.
The brothers were mad about cricket since childhood. Their father, a decent club cricketer, was a great admirer of Lindsay Hassett and always insisted that his sons batted like the Aussie. He died in 1948.
In a glowing tribute to the ‘sports father of the century’, Keith Miller was reported to have remarked, ‘Hail Mr Mohammad’.
The first three brothers — Wazir, Raees and Hanif — were students of the old Alfred High School, now known as Middle School, in Junagadh, only a few kilometres from the forest of Gir, the only habitat of the rare Asiatic lion.
It was their mother, an Indian national badminton champion in addition to being a regional table tennis and carrom champion, who truly inspired and motivated them to become sportsmen and bring laurels to their country and family.
When the nawab of Junagadh invited leading cricketers from outside his state, the brothers would rub shoulders with them, bowling and fielding in the nets.
It was a good learning experience for the brothers. They were star players in their school and would dominate the inter-school and other matches. Hanif, in particular, always stood out, demonstrating how much he loved to bat on and on.
Often, very often, he would bat on after sundown, the unwilling bowlers shifting the game from a side street to the main one, to play on under one of the three lighted lamp posts the nawab allowed his subjects.
Hanif was coached by India all-rounder Salim Durrani’s father Aziz Durrani when his family migrated to Karachi after the birth of Pakistan in 1947.
Among other things, Asif Durrani helped Hanif perfect the hook shot, using a golf ball.
Ameer Bee continued to be a fount of inspiration and driving force to her sons even after they began to represent Pakistan.
When they were on tour, she would write encouraging letters to them.
If they did well, she would praise them. But if they did badly, she would admonish them.
All the brothers acknowledged the silent but significant role their mother played in their development and success as Pakistan’s top cricketers.
Once Pakistan Airlines and Karachi Blues were up against each other in the national championship. Playing for Pakistan Airlines, Hanif scored 187 and Mushtaq 124.
Sadiq, appearing for Karachi Blues, was also in good form. When he scored 96, Mushtaq caught him. Ameer Bee did not speak with Mushtaq for several days!